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Comment on Shape vs. Color

Robokku Thu, Jan 17, 2008
An interesting post - thanks.

Is there anything in the old primary / secondary property distinction (or attempts to distinguish) that's relevant here?

The thought is that properties such as spatial extension and location - so shape - are in some sense prior to properties such as noisiness and deliciousness.

There is a sense in which primary properties are possessed objectively and secondary properties are ascribed subjectively. We could meaningfully disagree about a ruler's deliciousness without at least one of us being wrong, but, so the argument goes, we could not meaningfully disagree about a cake's spatial extension without at least one of us being wrong.

If we're being physical scientists - and I think some of us round here are - then you could say that colour as a property of light or of an object's surface is "out there" in the world in a way that the experience of redness or greenness or Mineral-Hazeness is not. The latter group of properties depend on us - on some processing by us.

Maybe you could say that the simple "reading" of shape from the world must be quicker than the more complex, internal "creation" of colour, which must after all be based on, and so come after, what is read.

Personally, I don't buy that line of argument. But I just wrote it so I'll let you disagree with it yourselves.

Could there be some evolutionarily advantageous aspects of favouring the rapid comprehension of what's out in the world over the production of an inner interpretation? Or vice versa?


(Sorry: were you looking for an answer like "shape" ?)